Friday, January 29, 2016

Member in the Spotlight: Holly St. Jean

By: Laurie Lynch, SHARE staff organizer

Holly St. Jean
Holly St. Jean is an amazing, hardworking, intelligent woman who is always willing to go above and beyond to help those around her in every way she can. She is cheerful, and, more often than not, smiling. We are all very lucky to have Holly as part of our SHARE union; she has stepped up and volunteers to help her co-workers by sitting as Secretary on our union's Executive Board. The Executive Board is the group of UMMS employees who serve as the governing body of the union. Members of the Executive Board have many responsibilities, including helping to keep the union strong by talking with and listening to members throughout UMMS, negotiating contracts, advising and advocating for members with problems at work, and addressing issues with management that have an impact on SHARE members.

Holly is also brave and not scared to take a risk, especially if it means the possibility of improving her life. She recently moved on from a five-year position that she enjoyed at UMass' Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital, Continuing Care Units, as an Administrative Assistant for what she believes will be an opportunity to learn and advance in her career at UMass in the department of Disability and Community Service as a Project Assistant II located at South Street in Shrewsbury.

She also took what some might call a risk in love when she signed up on the dating website, E-Harmony. She only met one man that she was interested in, and went out on a few dates with him. However, she nearly gave up on him after she lost touch with him for a couple of weeks. As it turns out, he was away on a trip. He was devastated when he found out that Holly was considering moving on. He was not going to let true love get away! They continued to date for five years, and then married, just over two years ago.

Holly grew up in Worcester with her three younger brothers, and she felt she had a pretty typical childhood. However, others may have found it challenging. Both of Holly's parents are deaf and communicate using American Sign Language. Holly's mom was born deaf, and her father became deaf shortly after his birth, due to an illness.

Mrs. St. Jean successfully achieved her high school diploma from Burncoat High School and went on to obtain her Associates Degree in Human Services from Quinsigamond College. Currently, she is working on completing a bachelor's degree program at Worcester State College. One thing is for sure, Holly has no plans on slowing down anytime soon!       

25 random fun facts about Holly St. Jean:

  • Favorite color – Purple
  • Favorite season – Summer
  • Beach or woods – Beach
  • Chocolate or vanilla – Chocolate
  • Dream vacation – Any tropical island
  • Favorite style of music – Hip-hop, R&B, folk and rock
  • Favorite food – Sushi
  • If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be – Grilled salmon with roasted asparagus
  • If you could go back in time, when would you go to, and why – Right after high school graduation, which is when Holly spent the most time with her beloved Grandmother.
  • If you got stranded on a deserted island, with no power source, what five items would you bring – Husband, book, 3 guinea pigs, sunblock and flip flops
  • Do you blow dry your hair, or just let it dry on its own, or towel dry – Blow dry
  •  Do you untie your shoes when you take them off – No
  • Favorite book – Any book by Jodi Picoult
  • Last thing you bought (not including food) – Green sweater (Wearing it today, very pretty.)
  • Do you have any pets – 3 guinea pigs: Paco, Larry, and Buddy
  • Favorite day of the week – Saturday
  • T.V. show you secretly enjoy – Keeping up with the Kardashians 
  • Favorite potato chip flavor – Salt and vinegar
  • Favorite hobbies – Shopping for clothes and playing video games
  • Do you play a musical instrument – No, but wishes she could
  • What's your worst pet peeve – People who complain but do nothing about it
  • Who named you and why – Paternal Grandmother; she rubbed her mother’s belly and said, “My little Holly Ann.”
  • What languages do you speak – American Sign Language, English and very little Spanish
  • Any nicknames - Hol
  •  Do you have a favorite life motto – “Be Yourself.”

Supreme Court Case Could Affect SHARE

For those who could not attend the January SHARE-UMMS Information Meetings, below is a summary of what we talked about. This is the beginning of a discussion among SHARE members that will continue over the coming months.

Friedrichs v. the California Teachers Association... what does this have to do with SHARE?

On January 11, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case called Friedrichs v. the California Teachers Association. The ruling could have a big impact on our union here at UMass Medical School, and on public-sector unions across the United States. The Court will probably announce its decision sometime this spring.

If the Court rules against unions, it will make it harder for public-sector unions, including SHARE, to survive. SHARE members would have to decide together if we want to keep the union. Over the next couple of months, members will have opportunities to discuss what the Court’s decision could mean for our union, and what we want to do about it.

What would the impact be?

In the most extreme case, the Court could rule that union members have the option to decide not to pay dues or fees to the union, but still be represented by the union and get the benefits that dues-paying members get.

Why would a union still have to represent people who don’t pay to support the union’s work?

Under current U.S. labor law, a union has to represent everyone in the bargaining unit equally, whether they choose to join the union or not. For people who don’t want to be union members, the law has allowed unions to charge an “agency fee”, to cover the cost of the work they do negotiating contracts and supporting members. Everybody pays because everybody benefits. The Supreme Court is now being asked to overrule this law.

What would we do if the Supreme Court rules against unions?

SHARE members would have a decision to make together – Do we want to keep our union?

If people can choose not to pay, probably some people would stop paying. If a lot of people stopped paying, the union would have fewer resources to support employees, and our strength would erode; it would be harder to negotiate good raises or help employees with work issues. Eventually, we could end up with no union at all.

In 1997, employees decided that they wanted a union here at UMMS. It was a big decision – no one knew exactly what it would mean to have a union, they only knew what it was like without one. And they voted to form SHARE.

Now, we have a similar choice. Most people in SHARE now were not here before the union election. They are in the opposite situation – they don’t know what it is like here without a union. Over the next couple of months, we will talk about the difference between having a union and not. What would happen if there were no more SHARE? Do the advantages outweigh the cost of dues? What was it like before the union?

Join the Discussion

We will be talking more about this in monthly Information Meetings, individual conversations, and informal “Drop-In” times. If you have questions, or want to discuss this further, please talk to someone who is active with SHARE, or call the SHARE office at 508-929-4020.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Annual UMass Martin Luther King Day Speaker: Liz Walker

Reverend Liz Walker with SHARE Treasurer Sandra Alafberg
Last Wednesday, the Reverend Liz Walker from the Roxbury Presbyterian Church spoke to our community about Martin Luther King and his example, especially how he lived a life of grace. 

SHARE Hospital Treasurer Sandra Alafberg, who works in downtown Worcester at UMass Memorial's Central Business Office, took time off from her work to hear Ms. Walker's talk, and left the event inspired and moved. 

"I loved it. Liz Walker is down-to-earth. Gracious . . . and funny. She's a humanitarian." Sandra said of the speaker. "She's from Arkansas. She learned about Dr. King when she was a girl. But she didn't come to talk about politics and movements. She talked about Martin Luther King being punched in the face by a man who was a stranger to him, and how he got up and walked away, how he showed grace. She talked about meeting Sudanese people who had absolutely nothing, and about their grace. She talked about how graciousness can change workplaces and societies." 

As a former news anchor at WBZ, Liz Walker is a familiar face to many in Massachusetts. Following in Dr. King’s tradition of service and advocacy, Liz Walker has responded to her own historical moment by co-founding the Jane Doe Safety Fund, a multi-million dollar advocacy group for survivors of domestic violence, and serving on a number of community boards and groups dedicated to causes including HIV/AIDS, breast cancer, and at-risk youth. She currently divides her time between Massachusetts and the Sudan, where she does humanitarian work as the founder of "My Sister's Keeper," a group that focuses on economic and educational initiatives for Sudanese women and girls. You can learn more about Liz Walker’s work on her own website.

Tidbit Time: Week of January 25, 2016

Welcome back! These tidbits are starting to add up. Speaking of adding up . . .


“Many hands make light work” has become a fairly well-known aphorism. The phrase can be attributed to the English playwright John Heywood, who wrote during the sixteenth century. The idea can also be found in many other languages around the world. A related Tanzanian proverb says, “Two ants do not fail to pull one grasshopper.”


Here, Chade-Meng Tan explains how cooperation can change the world, in describing a project undertaken by Tibetan students in India that is doing just that.


The Blood Donor Center at UMass Memorial accepts the important gift of blood year-round, and January is a great time to resolve to give. Blood is required for a number of medical conditions, including, of course, transplants, cancers, and traumatic injuries. UMass Memorial uses about 31,000 blood products each year to meet the needs of patients. The Blood Donor Center is located on the University Campus, downstairs from the Emergency Department. Walk-ins are welcome for whole-blood donations, or to schedule an appointment, please call 508-421-1950. To find other locations to give, visit the Red Cross website 


In his book Outliers, writer Malcolm Gladwell develops the idea that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Many critics and studies have worked to debunk this theory. Author and podcaster Tim Ferriss aspires to teach readers how to be world-class performers in a fraction of that time. But how long does it take to lose a skill? HopesandDreams recently spoke with several leading experts to find out the answer.


A tidbit is, as Merrium-Webster tells us, “a choice or interesting bit (as of information),” or “a small piece of news or information.” Outside of the US and Canada, the preferred spelling is “titbit.” Obviously the word also often refers to a select little piece of food, and tells us that “the first syllable likely comes from the archaic colloquialism tid, meaning tender.

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend, and that things are off to a very good start for you this week. See you here next time . . .

Monday, January 18, 2016

Tidbit Time: week of January 18th, 2016

Good morning! And happy Martin Luther King Day! In 2016, we’re making some changes to our weekly blogging experiment, formerly “Five Tidbit Friday.” We’ll continue to collect an array of news items, but we’ll be posting them, in various quantities, at the beginning of the week. This week, we’ve got a nice batch, beginning with . . .

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is," asserted Dr. Martin Luther King, "'What are you doing for others?'" On this MLK Day holiday, we remember Dr. King, and renew our thinking on this persistent and urgent question.

All members of the UMass community have been invited to this year's tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, where Rev. Liz Walker, pastor of Roxbury Presbyterian Church and the first black woman to co-anchor a newscast in Boston, will be delivering the keynote address on the subject of service.  RSVP or email to register for the event, taking place on Wednesday, Jan. 20, from noon to 1 p.m. in the Faculty Conference Room on the University campus, with lunch available at 11:30 a.m.


Near the end of last year, and “across the pond,” as they say, hospital workers and community members responded with real inspiration to a political decision that would have shut down Lewisham and Greenwich Hospital in southeast London. Members of the National Health Service choir there recorded and released "A Bridge over You," a mashup of "Bridge over Troubled Water" by Simon & Garfunkel, and Coldplay’s “Fix You.” The song became the centerpiece of a campaign to save the hospital.

As a result, the English came out in support of their healthcare workers. “A Bridge over You” reached number one on the UK singles chart at Christmas 2015, selling more than 127,000 copies. (Justin Bieber, whose song “Love Yourself” was expected to be number one on the charts during the spike in record sales at Christmas, even tweeted his support for the cause.)  

The song, the singers, and the video of these caregivers with their patients is quite an inspiration. Give it a listen?


The civil rights leader we celebrate today was born Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929. In 1934, however, his father, a pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, traveled to Germany and became inspired by the Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther. As a result, King Sr. changed his own name as well as that of his 5-year-old son. And did you know that the    young Martin Luther Jr. entered college at age fifteen?


There’s more interesting work-related news from the UK this week.  Buzzfeed recently reported that, “The Daily Telegraph has installed devices to monitor whether journalists are at their desks.” These small boxes were mounted beneath the employees’ desks, and detected heat and motion. A follow-up in the Huffington Post stated that outcry about the devices led the company to remove them the same day they were installed. That article, entitled “Why Bosses Should Snoop on Employees Less,”  goes on to explain:

. . . increasing surveillance to boost productivity is much different from increasing surveillance to prevent theft, and it's unclear if it does much beyond stressing employees out. Workplace stress can cost companies a few thousand dollars per worker every year through a combination in absenteeism and disability claims, multiple studies have found -- and that doesn't even cover any declines in productivity. And it's pretty clear employees find surveillance stressful.

Although SHARE has never come across warmth-detectors, UMass Memorial does use some technology to keep track of productivity. We are keeping an eye on this trend. Let us know if something new comes up in your area.
And while we’re on the subject, we encourage SHARE members to be cautious. Here in the US, an employer is entitled to monitor any communication activity on a company-owned system. And they can legally discipline you for anything you send that is illegal or out-of-line with their policies.


In the most recent SHARE Hospital contract negotiations, we implemented new language, designed to allow laid-off SHARE members to retain their pay rate if they cannot find another SHARE job that pays as well, if they must instead take a job in a lower pay grade. Although the language hasn’t worked as an automatic fix, it has helped SHARE members retain their standard of living. According to Politico, it appears that President Obama has been developing a similar idea, “In Tuesday's State of the Union address President Barack Obama offered a policy fix for workers who lose their jobs and end up in worse-paying ones: wage insurance. If an American worker takes a job that pays less than the one that vanished, ‘there should be a system of wage insurance in place so that he can still pay his bills,’ the president said.”

To those of you who have the holiday off this year, have a wonderful and meaningful day. To those of you who will be clocked-in, thank you for the work you will be doing on this day in service of the missions of our hospital and university. Hope you all had a wonderful weekend, and that things are off to a very good start for you this week. See you here next time . . .

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Inclement Weather Policy and the Time Offset Option

Winter is coming.

And with it, inclement weather. So far, we've had it pretty good (knock on wood!). Hopefully we won't be seeing the 103 inches of snow we saw last year in the City of Worcester.

However, even if we don't see record snowfall this year, snow might yet cover our streets, causing hazardous conditions that can make it very difficult to travel and come to work. 

In conversations leading up to the previous contract negotiations, it became clear that SHARE members saw a greater need for flexibility during inclement weather situations, which led us to negotiate the Time Offset Option as a new part of our Inclement Weather contract language.

The contract says:
Time Offset Option
Employees who are excused from job duties due to inclement weather may, at their discretion, workplace conditions permitting, choose to make up the lost time, instead of using their own earned time. The time missed due to the weather event can be made up in a single instance or in increments, and must be worked within the same pay period as the event.

About the Time Offset Option
This option is only available to “non-essential employees” and your ability to use this option will vary depending on your workplace conditions--for example, the kind of work that you do, the tasks at hand, the hours that you cover, etc. Throughout any weather event, you should have clear communication with the appropriate supervisor about your needs and the needs of the department. 

Since this Time Offset Option is new to supervisors as well as to SHARE members, to minimize confusion we recommend you and your supervisor talk through the specific expectations before the bad weather hits. There might not yet be any standards on how your department implements this new Time Offset Option, so the details might need to be worked out. Please feel free to ask advice and help of your SHARE union rep, who will be happy to help you address your individual needs and work with you and your department to develop standards if needed.

About Inclement Weather and "Essential" Employees
Because some essential functions of the Medical School must be maintained, and some departments cannot simply close, usually those that operate 24/7 or 7-days a week, a plan for staffing coverage is needed. To be clear about who has to come to work in these cases, employees need to be designated as “essential” or “non-essential” by their department head. If there is confusion or disagreement about an employee’s designation, it should be discussed by the employee and the department head, either of whom may also ask for help from the Union and/or the Office of Labor and Employee Relations.

For More Details
The SHARE-UMMS inclement weather policy, including the Time Offset Option, can be found on page 12 of the contract. If you have any questions please email us at or call the SHARE office: 508-929-4020.